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“You’ll Still Fly With Us” Ryanair’s Positive Brand Hate Dogma

There are lots of brands around the globe we can speak warmly for.

Hubspot’s one of them, for me. They revolutionized how we think of marketing today, and me included; I am always happy to take on their courses and certifications.

But I would make money by betting that, for most of you, the answer to “what’s my favorite brand” isn’t Ryanair.

I traveled to more than 15 countries with Ryanair’s aircrafts, many of the times with dirt-cheap prices. Without Ryanair, I would’ve never become the traveler I always aspired to be.

So while I don’t hate the brand, considering its great impact on me, I don’t like it nearly as much as I should. The brand, at least until recent years, was simply not likable, and others feel it too.

Yes, even in happier, pre-pandemic 2018 times, Ryanair was consistently ranked as one of the most hated airlines in Europe.

They are hated – it’s established alright. And they could do two things about it. Option A:

And after a successful crying session, maybe do something about it.

And, Option B:

A current snapshot of its LinkedIn page. Yes, you read that right. Europe’s Favorite Airline.

The Lion, The Witch, And The Audacity Of This …

Sorry, sorry. Almost got carried away. But as you can see, well…

THEY DON’T GIVE A DAMN!

And why should they? In a sense, they are right!

In many aspects, Ryanair leads the European aviation markets. “Europe’s Favorite Airline” can be interpreted in many different ways, after all.

This is a sheer testament to their strategy to essentially not care if they achieve brand love or not. Or, at least, a sign that it doesn’t matter for their case.

So why is that? Let’s have a look!

Branding Fundamentals for Brand Love

The era of just buying products and services just because of their price and quality is long gone.

Do both of these play a pivotal role in consumer decision-making? While there is no one-size-fits-all here, in most cases, the answer is a clear yes.

The sole influencers, though? Not by a long shot.

Brands matter for a reason in the current marketing age. And, to be put as simply as possible, they do because it allows for clear and concise differentiation.

“Do you promise to offer the same distinguishing quality of offerings, every time I come to you?” Asks the customer before the marriage purchase.

“Yes, my love. Every single time, until bankruptcy breaks us apart.” replies the brand.

groom and bride holding hands
And they lived happily ever aft… sorry, this is a blog post about branding. Must have been carried away by Valentine’s spirit. Source: Unsplash

That’s all you need to remember. Your brand is a promise of how are you different from others.

And in such a loud world, filled with information, this matters!

It never fails to fascinate me, how everything involving money, deep down, involves trust. Trust is the simple most important factor in financial systems. You carry a currency that you trust as valuable, and if you don’t you just exchange it for some that you do. This is the same thing for any currency, crypto, or fiat (as the cool kids call them these days). This is the same thing for any financial product, bonds, stocks, loans. Pure trust, that we believe that it’s worth something. Think of it! Isn’t it crazy, but true?

So that’s why brand trust matters as well. You can check about brand trust is in my previous blog post, but we are here for one step further.

What is brand love?

Brand Love Fundamentals

Tim Halloran made an amazing article for Harvard Business Review back in 2014, describing brand love as an 8-step from consumer strangers to brand lovers, back to consumer heartbrokens once they grow out of the relationship. I suggest you go read it too, but in case you won’t, he starts by wondering a quote from a focus group participant.

“I really think of Diet Coke as my boyfriend.”

Which, of course, makes him question how a person can say that.

Well, love’s blind. People have married crazy things in the past, anyways. Look at that one woman who married the Eiffel tower!

Was it love, or was she a gold digger who wanted its prestigious area in Paris? Some things should remain hidden.

Erika Aya Eiffel Texas Shootout Archery.jpg
The story of Erika Eiffel, a retired talented archer, is real. How did her relationship with the tower work? Some things are better left unanswered. Source: Wikipedia.com

Brand love ain’t one of them. Yes, brands can be loved, if you do such an extreme job over the years.

Think Apple’s loyal customers, making lines to buy the newest iPhone while it won’t make such a difference in their lives, compared to the previous-gen device they were carrying.

Or think of this woman that loves her (diet) coke too much.

As described from the American Marketing Association’s article on how to achieve Brand Love, this feeling towards companies “is a marketing strategy that looks to adopt brand-loyal customers and turn them into advocates or influencers for your brand”.

When you love your partner, you will want to show them around to people that matter to you: friends, relatives, colleagues, your yoga classmates, etc.

And you do the same with brands you like that much!

Brands have a lot to gain when they have passionate consumers. They are the champions for you out there, for free, promoting your brand through positive Word-of-Mouth, and supporting you on your way.

None of these matter to you? Well, they should. But even if I can’t convince you, know that 43% of customers spend more money on brands they are loyal to.

How about now?

Of course, this doesn’t come easy. Such a strong relationship hides near-perfect relationship marketing, a lot of effort to provide strong value that satisfies these specific customers.

In most cases, you won’t be able to make every single customer your lover. Proper segmentation to locate this profitable and sustainable buyer persona(s), and spot-on targeting to know how to engage, and retain this relationship, are key to your brand’s efforts to “find the ones”.

Now that we finished our flight and are ready to land, with all this branding knowledge, I guess we are ready to go back to our topic; Ryanair.

Why the hell wouldn’t Ryanair want that for its brand?

When the Sky’s the Limit, Brand Love ain’t the only destination for Ryanair

Before we move on, let me remind you of one simple thing; Marketing isn’t only Advertisements. No matter if your school of thought, either you think of marketing with 4Ps, 7Ps, 4Cs, or whatever’s hip these days, marketing is more, more than promotions, social media, ads, SEO, etc. No, it’s the whole shebang of the customer you give something that’s of value. It’s the whole ordeal of how you market your products to have a raison d’etre out there. Think of the promise we talked about before; you can’t reach this promise with just empty promises, right?

With that being said…

There’s more than one road leading to Rome.

Over and over again, we hear of companies that mastered marketing over the years. Think of how influential Coca-Cola was during the analog advertising years. How much Steve Jobs was nailing marketing in every step of the way.

But we rarely forget, at least those with marketing enthusiasm to spare, that there is another way around.

Companies have succeeded without prioritizing “Marketing”. It’s true! Tesla’s infamous for that, although the ingenuity of its leader is a story for another time. In an advertisement-heavy automobile world that other brands spend millions for their image, such as my adored Mercedes (a love I developed in my Mercedes article), Tesla said fuck that, I ain’t gonna give a shit about it, and dominated the market with 3x less marketing budget than its competitors.

To land you once again (flying pun intended) this is a part of our Ryanair case. But just a part.

Ryanair’s promise is simple. Αir transportation at the most competitive of prices. “Low Fares. Made Simple.”.

The words of Ryanair’s ex CMO, Kenny Jacobs, will help with why this is important.

In an interview at Marketing Week back in 2017, the first CMO of “Europe’s Favorite Airline” was caught in the start of the hype for all things digital. But he hasn’t taken the bait. The quote below is self-explanatory.

“Do I believe less in all the shiny new stuff of digital marketing than I used to? Yes I do. You just need to have a common sense approach and do the right things for your particular brand, but stay fast and stay agile.”

Kenny Jacobs, 2017

In the entirety of his interview, he mentions one thing every marketer should have in mind; don’t be bedazzled by all the fancy trends and new features when there’s not a reason to.

How much does he mean it? Enough to also say this:

“I meet marketers and they say, do you want to be loved and is it all about the brand and brand love? It’s not. Short-haul flying for me is a commodity choice. It’s about having the best schedule, the cheapest flights and being very good at execution. That’s what we do, but we don’t want to do more than that.”

Kenny Jacobs, 2017

Boom 💥

These are the words of a marketer that understand that there is no single panacea for marketing and business. Nothing’s sacred.

Ryanair understands that, in such a business, pursuing the goal of being loved is, well, pointless! With such low margins and prices, there will be disappointment, mistreatment, extra costs. You can’t be loved when your service has these, totally understandable business-wise, issues – and why try to?

As long as there is a need for affordably priced aviation, Ryanair will be there. Whether we like the brand or not.

They nail the service – even if we understand it or not.

Why do I say that? Let’s check the current Ryanair’s Social Media Strategy.

The fine line between Brand Love & Brand Hate through Social Media

One of my favorite social media strategies for 2021 comes from Ryanair, hands down.

I don’t know who convinced who, what sparked it, how they said it’s time to change course and start playing like this.

But. They. Nail. It!

They gave us social media post gems, such as the Dom Toretto Family meme.

They make great use of TikTok, real-time marketing, an explicit usage of memes, to make golden posts that people find entertaining to consume. Stats don’t lie; their Facebook page has more than 5 million followers, their TikTok page has 1.5 million followers, and overall, a lot of their posts manage to reach a vast number of people.

But doesn’t this contradict my case above?

The answer is a fine balance between yes and no. Like how they cross that fine line of brand love and hate at the moment.

I am sure you’ve met a person, sometime in your life, that you hated, but, sometimes, you could admit their talents, wits, strengths. That time you may have said, “this son of a 🐕… they’re right”. That you nodded your head in disbelief, although you knew that they were correct, this time.

Ryanair builds, and is still building in 2022, this exact persona for its brand.

Nothing changed; except that they found themselves in a marketing era that fits their strategy so, so much.

Let’s check, again, some of their social media posts:

Or

May be a meme of text that says 'Lisa with the straight up facts The long walk to the departure gate is worth it because the the flight is only €10'
Source: Ryanair’s Facebook Page

Ryanair is not afraid to fire shots at their own customers when they are irrational. Exactly like the example below, a post that they just uploaded today, on February 14th, and I just had to add it as well!


Source: Ryanair’s Facebook Page

They are not afraid to diss everyone they don’t like or disagree with either. 1 our of 5 posts features UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

They won’t be apologetic for what they offer you, even with all the service’s downsides. Ryanair wants you to know that you pay 10-20 euros for a flight; so what else can you expect?

They know their service. They know their customers. And they know that they do what they can do, so that you know, too!

And they are authentic, true to their promise. A tip that applies to every business case, that will most certainly help you in your way.

The One Thing to Take from This Blog Post

So, if you had one thing to learn from this blog?

Always consider your case!

Your marketing case is your marketing case. And what works for others, won’t necessarily work for you!

When I first joined Nice Ice in 2019, I had to start, from scratch, a marketing strategy for ice products in a country where no Ice producer does anything related to marketing.

You bet this was a unique case to work with. And yours will be too.

Never forget to check trends, new features, changes, and generally, what’s new. Digital Marketing is so dynamic, in particular, that your whole strategy can become irrelevant from one day to the other.

But always remember to see how everything applies to your business.

Nothing is true for all cases. No panacea exists, except maybe garlic for grandmas.

And that includes, yes, not even having a brand that is loved by your customers.

So, since I am writing these lines within the Valentine period, worry not! If you haven’t found someone to love your brand or yourself, think of who you are, and act on it.

And success will be on its way.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Published inMarketing Advice & TipsMarketing Review

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